Reviews from the Hamilton Fringe: S.C.U.M. A Manifesto, Cheri, Elephant Girls

by Lynn on July 23, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

S.C.U.M. A Manifesto.

At Hamilton Theatre Inc. 140 McNab St. N, Hamilton, Ont.

Written and performed by S.E. Grummett and Caitlin Zacharias
Directed by Danielle Spilchen

A wild, sprawling, irreverent examination of the feminist movement, body politics and image using the story of Valerie Solanas and her involvement with Andy Warhol.

From the info card for the show: “In 1967, Valerie Solanas wrote the radically feminist S.C.U.M. Manifesto: Society for Cutting Up Men,” which suggested that in order for women to be truly liberated, they must overthrow the government and kill all men. S.C.U.M. Manifesto is a look inside the mind of the woman who shot Andy Warhol and a dark satire of the feminist movement today.”

Writers/performers S.E. Grummett and Caitlin Zacharias play two women taking a feminist class who are stumped on what to do for their class project. One of them discovers the S.C.U.M Manifesto in the library and goes from there. They both play the students and Valerie Solanas and Andy Warhol. The students banter about the boring class, their relationships, expectations with men, frustrations etc.

The performances are lively, fearless, angry, and irreverent. One might be lost if you aren’t familiar with the S.C.U.M. Manifesto or Valerie Salanas. The segue from being the students to being Salanas and Warhol in 1967 is not quite clear. It would have been really helpful to have a proper program with the writers/performers’ names on it. That said, this Saskatoon company has a lot to say and a clever way of saying it.

Continues at the Hamilton Fringe until July 30, 2017.


At Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne St., Hamilton, Ont.

Written and directed by Sky Gilbert
Based on the novels of Colette
Lyrics by Sky Gilbert
Music by Dustin Peters
Set by Stephen Newman
Lighting by Judith Sandiford
Cast: Peggy Mahon
Dustin Peters.

Lea is an old courtesan who is discoursing on her life and loves. Cheri is her new accompanist. He warns her he does not want any surprises. She seems surprised at this. She sounds him out. She flirts. She has his eye on her. He’s wary.

Does one have to be familiar with the novels of Colette and in particular the one entitled Cheri about an old courtesan and her younger lover known as ‘Cheri’? Perhaps, for some context.

While writer/director Sky Gilbert writes about the profession of being a courtesan which is a bit better (but still the same) as a prostitute, Gilbert does suggest one is more genteel than the other. He writes about aging, love, a relationship of a young man and an older woman and the importance of being coy and alluring, no matter the age.

At 50 minutes the play seems slight. Perhaps another pass at it will bring more depth and discovery. Peggy Mahon plays Lea, a stylish, confident older woman and Dustin Peters plays the attractive pianist referred to as Cheri. I would love to have heard the words of his various songs, but they were drowned out by his lively piano playing.

It continues at Artword Artbar until July 30

Elephant Girls

At the Staircase, 27 Dundurn St. N, Hamilton, Ont.

Written and performed by Margo MacDonald.
Directed by Mary Ellis
Costumes by Vanessa Imeson

“The bloody tale of the all-women gang that terrorized London” in the early 1900s.

Maggie Hale is our narrator/guide into this underworld gang of women. We are in a pub and there are at least five glasses of beer that Maggie will be drinking during the telling. Five glasses of beer (one already consumed); this is a woman with issues. She wears a three piece man’s suit, white shirt with cufflinks, with a tightly tied tie, smart pocket puff, a fedora and gleaming ox-blood coloured brogues. Maggie became associated with the Elephant Girls, a gang of 40 women in the early 1900s in London, England. They would go into smart women’s shops and steal merchandise that was then fenced for lots of money. Fifteen minutes work to make a fortune. Crime sure pays.

Maggie drove the getaway car. She became associated with the gang leader Diamond Alice and a relationship formed. Alice suggested Maggie dress as a man to give her a cover when driving the car. Maggie found she liked dressing as a man and realized she liked women better than men.

Margo MacDonald’s writing is bracing, vivid, sharply-observed and puts you in that rough and tumble world of London in the early 1900s. And what a subject, a gang of 40 women. Because they were centred in the area of London known as the Elephant and Castle the gang was called the Elephant Girls.

As a performer, MacDonald is so compelling. She strikes a confident pose in that fastidious suit and fedora. For her performance as Maggie Hale, Margo MacDonald has assumed a tight Cockney accent complete with slang. You are never in the dark as to the meaning. MacDonald gives nuance and shading to this performance and she is always compelling to watch.

Elephant Girls is one show you must see at the Hamilton Fringe because Margo MacDonald is such a gifted writer and performer.

It continues until July 30 at The Staircase Theatre, 27 Dundurn St. N.

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